Zina Kumok is a former Horkey HandBook student, coaching client and a great personal finance writer who managed to pay her student loan debt off in less than three years. She has a great story – I’ve loved watching her grow as a freelance writer and take her side hustle full-time over the last year.
So when she told me that she landed not one, but TWO, high-paying clients on Contently (a portfolio platform), I asked her to share her story on Horkey HandBook. Take it away Zina!
A month ago, I shared a huge win with Gina, my business coach and mentor. I had scored my highest paying freelance writing client – at $1,000 per post. The best part? I had scored two of them! And both of my high-paying clients came from Contently.
I was so excited about what I was able to accomplish, that I wanted to share my secret with everyone. Here’s how I did it and how you can score clients on Contently too.
How I Set Up a Portfolio
These major clients came from Contently, which acts as an agency for companies needing content and writers looking for work.
Contently attracts writers because of the free portfolios they allow writers to create.
I first decided to set up a Contently portfolio because a fellow freelance writer told me she’d gotten great clients from them.
Here’s how Contently works: You set up a free online portfolio where you add links of all your work. Staff from Contently scour through these profiles to find people who would be a great fit for their clients.
That’s why your portfolio is so important – it’s the only way you’ll get noticed.
Pro Tip: Make sure to add relevant photos to all your clips and include a summary of the article.
It doesn’t matter how old the clips are – no one cares. I’ve added in articles I wrote for my college newspaper and various internships. You can even add in PDFs if your clips are from pieces not available online.
I’ve had a couple magazine clients who have not published my work online, only in print. I’ve scanned in these pieces and uploaded them manually to Contently.
Why go through all the work when I have hundreds of other articles?
Because I want to show everything I’ve written.
Not only is your portfolio the only way you can get asked to be a part of Contently’s stable of writers, but it’s also great to use when applying for other gigs.
I regularly send out the link to my Contently portfolio to editors; they can see the variety of stories I’ve done and how many publications I’ve written for. Even if Contently didn’t match me with clients, I’d still use their portfolio services.
This is what my portfolio looks like now:
On the left, you’ll see links to my social media platforms, a short bio and my email address.
Contently also tracks how many stories you’ve uploaded, how many different publications you’ve been published in and how many words you’ve written total. They also track your social shares and likes.
Every month or so, I go through and add new articles to my Contently portfolio. Not only does it help me stay connected to the Contently Talent Managers, but it makes me feel good to see the variety of articles I’ve written over the previous month.
Be Patient – It’s a Long Process
I started my Contently portfolio in the spring of 2015.
By July, I received an email from the Contently Talent Network saying they had noticed my portfolio and that I was on their radar. But it wasn’t until October that I was added to a team.
That’s why it’s important to stay patient and persistent. Even though there was no guarantee of work, I still faithfully added my clips.
Even when you’re added to a company’s team, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get work from them. Contently adds writers who they think will be a good fit, but you still have to pitch stories to them.
Sometimes they already have story ideas and just need writers, but that’s rare.
They’ll give you general ideas on what to pitch, who they’re targeting, how to format your pitch and more. Make sure to read these directions carefully.
When you format your pitches, include a brief outline with a few bullet points. You want the editors to have a clear idea of what you’re going to write about. The easier you make it for them, the smoother the process will go.
After your pitches are accepted, you’ll be given a deadline. Make sure to mark it on your calendar – sometimes Contently will remind me that a story is due, other times it won’t.
After you submit your story, a slew of editors will work on it. I’ve had to make some edits on stories, but not any more than usual. Plus, once you submit your story, you’ll automatically get paid. You can withdraw the money to your PayPal account. It’s the easiest payment process I’ve had with any client.
Why I Like Contently
The best part of Contently is that they only partner with organizations that can afford to pay writers good rates. Both clients I’ve had pay me more than 50 cents a word – higher than you’ll find on most other blogs and job boards.
Plus, Contently cares about writers. You get paid immediately and sometimes you can set your own rates. Even though Contently takes a cut of what the client pays, they’re a great agency if you’re looking for name-brand companies that pay you what you deserve.
Please remember that while I’ve scored some awesome gigs, I’m no better than the average freelancer out there.
(Gina: Zina has a drive like no other though and has been hustling like crazy since I’ve known her!)
Anyone can apply the tips I’ve outlined and use them to beef up their client list.
Go for It
Too many writers fall for content mills and writing for exposure. That might be okay while you’re getting started and building clips, but it’s not how you should build a living. Finding great clients is the key to staying in this business long-term.
The great news is that clients like that out there. You just have to find them.
Zina Kumok is a personal finance freelance writer. She writes a blog about paying off her student loans in three years. A former newspaper reporter, she’s covered everything from murder trials to the Final Four. You can read more about Zina on Debt Free After Three and on Twitter.